Oregon Office


Patricia Phelan, Ph.D. and Ann Locke Davidson, Ph.D. started Educational Connections in Portland in 2001. Since then they have helped over 1,000 families through the Portland office and made over 2,000 site visits to over 300 schools and programs. Together the team has over 60 years of experience helping youth with diverse experiences and needs.

Drs. Phelan and Davidson bring a wealth of experience to their roles as educational consultants, including:

  • Therapeutic work with children, adolescents and families
  • Research on at-risk youth and mental health issues of children and adolescents
  • Program assessment and evaluation
  • Curriculum development, teaching, and teacher education
  • Years of experience leading parent support groups.

Dr. Pamela Sheffield joined the Portland office team in 2015. She was previously the program manager for the Adolescent and Family Program at the Portland Dialectical Behavior Therapy Institute. Pamela brings over 15 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to the team.


Our despair has turned to hope . . .

Our daughter struggles with depression and anxiety and continued to lose ground in spite of intensive therapy with a local psychotherapist. After more than a year of escalating struggles and an alarming decline we turned to Pat and Ann for help. Their recommendations suited our daughter’s needs perfectly and provided an incredibly effective intervention. Now, our daughter is working hard to build the skills she needs to move forward in her life.

- Lisa and Peter, Oregon

I love the support group meeting. It is so good to be able to talk with and hear from people in every stage of the journey that we are going through.
- Father of son in treatment

When we had reached our bleakest days in trying to find a solution for our son, Ann and Pat were referred to us by another parent who had faced similar issues with their child. We knew that we had to act, but did not have the knowledge or information to make an informed decision about various wilderness programs or schools. They spent an inordinate amount of time with us in understanding our family and our son to present options that we may have never found. The program and therapist they suggested were such a perfect match for the type of guidance our son needed.

Pat and Ann were so empathetic and we no longer felt so alone with our problems. The parent group sessions they run twice a month also brought a great deal of support and understanding for us from the other parents and we became engaged with the journey that others were on as well. I attended my first parent group session one day before my son was going to be leaving for a wilderness program and I was beside myself with worry about the next step. The parent group gave me such a level of support and guidance, that I left feeling confident that we had made the right decision and any guilt or fears I had were abated.

Ann and Pat stayed engaged throughout the process, checking in with the therapist regularly, visiting the programs and our child, and assisting with questions and concerns about the process. I can’t say enough good about them–their knowledge, thoroughness, empathy, and level of service are beyond compare.

- Jenna and Doug, Oregon

The office is located in Portland’s beautiful Goose Hollow neighborhood.

1012 SW King Ave., Suite 301, Portland, OR 97205

Ann Locke Davidson, Ph.D.

Ann Locke Davidson founded Educational Connections with Patricia Phelan in 2001. Since then, she has assisted hundreds of adolescents and families to find appropriate mainstream and therapeutic school settings in her role as an educational and therapeutic consultant.

Dr. Davidson completed her Ph.D. in Education and M.S. in Anthropology at Stanford University in 1992. While there, she was a member of the Stanford Evaluation Consortium specializing in the assessment of programs for at-risk youth. Dr. Davidson’s work has involved literally hundreds of hours interacting with at-risk adolescents as well as direct involvement with school and program environments designed to affect these populations. Her interests and experience include work as a university research scholar concerned with programs and environments that address the social, emotional and academic needs of struggling youth, program design and evaluation, teaching at-risk adolescents and adults, and teacher development and training.

Dr. Davidson is the author of four books and numerous articles and book chapters. Her books Making and Molding Identity in Schools, Adolescents’ Worlds (with Dr. Patricia Phelan) and Renegotiating Cultural Diversity in American Schools (with Dr. Patricia Phelan) result from her work as a Senior Research Scholar at the University of Washington and Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University. Her research focused specifically on psychosocial and environmental pressures and problems that impact students’ ability to engage optimally in educational environments. She also worked to identify school and classroom characteristics that exacerbate or ameliorate the problems that youth face, and worked directly in schools and within communities to understand how innovative programs designed to address students’ emotional, social and mental health issues affect their school involvement and success. As part of this work, she trained graduate students to conduct specialized interviews with youth about sensitive areas of their lives. In addition, she participated in a year long, large-scale evaluation of a community based program for at-risk high school youth, many of whom were involved with the juvenile justice system.

In addition to her role as a researcher, Dr. Davidson participated in program design and evaluation efforts while on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and as a senior member of a Harvard University research team. With the Harvard team, she helped develop portfolio assessment practices for at-risk students. The emphasis of this project was on creating classroom practices that engage students who traditionally do not perform well on standardized tests. At the University of Pittsburgh, she helped develop and evaluate an innovative science curriculum designed to respond specifically to middle school children’s developmental needs. In addition, she was a lead member of a National Science Foundation study of Internet environments and their impact on public school students’ academic and social experiences. The results of this study culminated in her fourth book, Bringing the Internet to School: Lessons from an Urban District.

Dr. Davidson also has a wealth of experience as a teacher. She began her career in education teaching English to adult immigrant students. As a teacher in the People’s Republic of China, she helped prospective Chinese teachers learn to teach English composition and literature. As a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, she headed a team working with seasoned middle school teachers to implement alternative assessment practices. At part of the Stanford University Teacher Education Program, she supervised prospective high school teachers.

Dr. Davidson is the mother of two boys, one a teenager and one a young adult. She is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. Davidson’s B.A. degree is also from Stanford, where she graduated with distinction and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society. She is a former All-American long distance runner, placing sixth among American runners at the NCAA Division I 10,000 meter championships and participating on the second place team at the NCAA Division I Cross-Country Championships. Over the past decade, she has competed internationally in both triathlon and duathlon and is a five time age group world champion in both of these events. She was raised in Boulder, Colorado and Anchorage, Alaska, where she attended public schools.

Ann Davidson, PhD
With her thoroughness, entwined with genuine concern, Dr. Davidson became an advocate for my son. All the friends and family we asked her to interview agreed with us that she has a unique professional, yet compassionate interview style. There is an immediate sense of trust, hope and honesty when interacting with her. She understood the severity of my son’s diagnosis and why many schools/programs refused to even consider him for admission. With her experience and research background, Dr. Davidson knew of a therapeutic residential school most appropriate for him and his needs. No one else was able to help us find a place. She not only found a terrific program for him, she was actively invested in his progress to ensure he was successful and thriving throughout his stay there.
- Kayla, Hawaii parent

Educational Connections brought personal compassion, professionalism, order and great diligence to our family at a very difficult time when we were running out of answers for our daughter. Ann Davidson’s work was deep, quick, responsive and thoughtful, and her commitment to getting to know our family was as broad as the extensive national network of relationships Educational Connections enjoys at a variety of schools. It was also clear to us that Educational Connections has earned an excellent reputation among the schools we visited and interviewed. Eight months after Ann presented her recommendations to us, we know that our daughter is exactly where she needs to be. Educational Connections played a vital role in this outcome.
- Brian and Nicole, Michigan parents

Dr. Pamela Sheffield

Dr. Sheffield has over 15 years of experience as a clinical psychologist providing therapy, assessment, and consultation to adults, adolescents and their families. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and both her Master of Science and Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D) in Clinical Psychology from Pacific University’s School of Professional Psychology. At Rochester she worked for two years on a longitudinal research study investigating family relationships and child attachments. She has long been passionate about providing quality, research-supported treatment to a variety of clients and has experience in providing treatment and consultation to adolescents, young adults, and their families in pursuit of the best treatment outcomes.

Prior to joining Educational Connections, Pamela was the program manager for the Adolescent and Family Program at the Portland Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Institute. While at DBT, Pamela worked daily with families and adolescents in crisis. She facilitated a group specifically for high risk adolescents, working directly with teens to help them acquire skills to manage significant mood and emotional regulation issues. Her clients included adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, personality issues and chemical dependency. She also worked with parents to increase their parenting effectiveness by helping them develop skills to cope with their children’s high-risk behaviors. In this role she emphasized the importance of parents maintaining their own health and stability. Throughout her time at the DBT Clinic, Pamela was involved in program development, outreach to the community, and encouraging adherence to the DBT model. Finally, she provided individual and group psychotherapy to adolescents and adults.

In addition to training and practice of DBT, Pamela has completed a 2-year Gestalt therapy training course through the Gestalt Therapy Training Institute Northwest where she also participated in an advanced Gestalt therapy training group. Further, as a clinical psychologist, Pamela has a background in psychological testing. This involves administering a variety of psychological instruments to determine a student’s psychological and cognitive strengths and challenges, including identifying learning disorders and mental health issues. During graduate school Pamela worked for three years doing crisis intervention and assessment. She helped parents cope with the high-risk behaviors of their children and assisted clients of all ages to develop and ensure safety plans in a variety of high-risk situations.

Pamela grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Oregon where she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest while in graduate school. She is married and lives with her husband and their active senior dog, Sully. She enjoys hiking, film, cooking, and is hopeful that some day she will learn how to keep a garden alive.

Pam Sheffield
When we couldn’t find help for our son anywhere else, Educational Connections welcomed us with open arms. They were our guides and interpreters through a world we not only did not know existed, but one so vast and foreign that we never could have navigated our son to safety on our own. I would never hesitate to recommend Educational Connections to anyone in need. I hope you never need them, but if you do, you will never regret their guidance and more importantly, their support.
- Luke, Oregon

Patricia Phelan, Ph.D.

Dr. Phelan brings a forty-year history of professional experience with children, youth, and families to her current role as an independent therapeutic and educational consultant Her firm, Educational Connections, assists families throughout the United States in identifying appropriate educational and therapeutic options for children who are struggling. She provides advice and assistance to parents with adolescents experiencing social, emotional, behavioral, mental health or learning challenges as well as drug and alcohol issues. She also works with young adults who need assistance making the transition from adolescence to adulthood or who have psychiatric and/or drug and alcohol related problems. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Phelan and partners Dr. Ann Davidson, Dr. Jennie Heckman and Kristin Kajer-Cline have assisted more than 2000 families in making an informed and intelligent decision about the most appropriate educational and/or therapeutic setting for their child. During this time they have conducted on-site visits to over 350 schools and programs throughout the country.

Born in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Phelan attended Portland Public Schools and earned her B.S. Degree in Education at Oregon State University. In 1973, she joined the Urban/Rural School Development Program at Stanford University where she consulted with and provided assistance to schools serving low-income and ethnically diverse children and families throughout the United States. Subsequently she obtained her Masters Degree in Anthropology (1978) and her Ph.D. in Anthropology of Education (1981) at Stanford University. Dr. Phelan’s dissertation involved research in one of the first programs in the country to treat incest victims and their families. In addition to her research agenda, she worked as a therapist for nearly six years with women incest survivors, adolescent victims, and father incest perpetrators and their wives.

Dr. Phelan’s interests in education and mental health led to her appointment as a faculty member in the Medical Anthropology Program in the Medical School at the University of California, San Francisco (1982-1988). During this time her research continued to focus on mental health issues of children and adolescents. She also held an appointment as an adjunct faculty member at Stanford University where she taught in the Graduate School of Education. From 1989-1992, she continued her work at Stanford as a Senior Research Scholar exploring the relationship between adolescent’s lives and contexts and their involvement in school. During this time she spent hundreds of hours in high schools in California to understand, from the perspective of youth, those things that impact students’ connection with schools and learning including the kinds of pressures and problems that youth face. This work resulted in the publication of numerous articles, books chapters and two books, Renegotiating Cultural Diversity in American Schools and Adolescents’ Worlds: Negotiating Family, Peers, and School. During this time, she was also a faculty member on the Stanford Evaluation Consortium focusing on the evaluation of schools and programs for struggling youth.

In 1992, Dr. Phelan joined the faculty as a Professor at the University of Washington where she helped to develop a Masters Degree Program for teachers and designed an academic concentration on at-risk children and youth. Her teaching included such courses as Psychosocial Problems of Youth, Seeing Promise in At-Risk Youth, and Social Contexts of Youth. For three years Dr. Phelan’s research was supported by a Spencer Foundation Grant to study programs, policies, and practices that support students’ social, emotional, and academic well-being. In 1996 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and was one of six invited senior teaching and research scholars from the United States to Australia where she served on the faculty at the University of Launceston, Tasmania. During her ten years at the University of Washington, Dr. Phelan continued her involvement in schools as a member of the Nathan Hale Teen Health Clinic Advisory Board and as a facilitator for grief and loss groups and drug and alcohol groups for high school students.

Dr. Phelan has been an active member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association since 2002. In 2013 she was selected as the consultant representative to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. She is the mother of a young adult son.

Patricia Phelan, Ph.D.
I discovered that help is available when it seems like there is no answer to “what do we do with a child who’s making negative decisions and impacting our family’s stability.” Pat was the listening ear I needed, who understood my concerns and frustration and led me through the process, which provided programs for my grandson and granddaughter to make the necessary changes in their life.

I am grateful for her professional insight with at risk children and ability to suggest appropriate placements. She provided the direction I needed to make the difficult choices for the children I love.

- Valerie, Southern Oregon

Parent Support Group

Drs. Phelan and Davidson facilitate a support group for parents of adolescents and young adults in residential treatment. They started the group to help reduce the isolation that many parents feel when they have a child who is struggling. Feedback from parents suggests that this has been a very positive way for them to connect with one another and share experiences and ideas.

The Portland Parent Support Group meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Please contact Pam and Ann for more details.

I honestly don’t know if I would have had the courage to send our daughter to wilderness without the support of other parents in our group. Their compassion, understanding, advice, and terrific sense of humor has made an almost impossible situation so much more bearable.
- Mother of daughter in treatment